Reading: Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. Matthew 6:1.
Good morning, happy Wednesday, and many blessings my dear family.
In today’s Gospel (Matthew 6:1-6. 16-18) Jesus wants to warn us against doing righteous looking things in front of other people in order to impress them. And in Jesus’ day there were lots of people who did that. Remember in Matthew 5.20 Jesus told us that our righteousness needed to exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees.
Now the Scribes and the Pharisees were the “spiritual leaders” of the day. They wanted everyone else to know how righteous they were. How holy, how good, how close to God they were. They did this because they wanted others to think they were pretty good. They were only concerned with how they looked to others, so they concentrated on the externals, not the internals, and in chapter 5 we’ve seen how Jesus is not just interested in the externals as He is with what goes on inside.
And as Jesus says in Mt 6.1, if we do good things just so other people will think we are spiritual or holy or religious, then we’ve already received our reward from those people, and so we won’t get any reward from God our Father and Mother. Jesus then uses three ways that the people of His day tried to look righteous before others: giving to the needy, prayer, and fasting. And the structure of each one is very similar. In each case, which we’ll soon look at, Jesus gives an example of how we can do righteous deeds, but do them only to win the favor of other people. And if we do them for that reason, then we receive our reward from those people, and won’t be rewarded by God.
It is clear that when Jesus addresses prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, he urges us to turn away from ourselves and see the wider picture. In this passage, Jesus is not criticizing these practices, he is asking us to examine our motivation in doing them. Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are only a means to an end. Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving...express conversion in relation to oneself, to God, and to others..." How might I apply one or all of these practices today to approach God more nearly?
Like any relationship, our relationship with God must be nourished by time spent with God in quiet and in private. It is during these moments of intimacy with God that we allow ourselves to be transformed little by little into God’s image.
Today, Jesus reminds us of the three “hall-marks” of genuine religion: prayer, fasting and almsgiving. We need all three. Prayer without some element of fasting and almsgiving could become so heavenly, as someone has said, that it is no earthly use. Fasting without prayer and almsgiving might end up as simply self-preoccupied dieting. If we give alms but have no time for prayer or some self-denial, perhaps our motto is “do good and avoid God!” If we entrust ourselves totally to God, we can be sure that this relationship will make a difference for the better in our lives. Is God asking you to focus on things that matter? What is some current issue that has touched your heart, but you have chosen to close your eyes to? Remember, is not about keeping up appearances, let your words with actions of peace with justice show who you are.